Belly bloat, it’s not fat but it might as well be since it causes the same uncomfortable and unsightly belly distension. If you start the day with a relatively flat belly, only to end it with a stomach so swollen you look like you’re a few months pregnant, then read on to find out which foods are causing the bloat and how to quickly de-bloat and start slimming down again.
How can I tell the difference between belly bloat and belly fat?
With belly fat you’re able to grab and squeeze it, whereas with belly bloat, like an inflated balloon, the skin has tension from the pressure building within the stomach, it’s hard to squeeze and the stomach can even feel hard to the touch. Also belly fat stays around the same size throughout the day, whereas belly bloat expands throughout the day depending on how much bloat-inducing foods you’ve eaten.
Avoid the Top Bloat-Inducing Food
- Sugar –yeast and bacteria in the gut feeds on sugar, producing gas and bloating.
- Excess carbs –As a backup energy source, your muscles store a type of carbohydrate called glycogen. Every gram of glycogen is stored with 3 grams of water. But unless you’re running a marathon or have a very physical job, you don’t need all of this stockpiled fuel. Decrease your intake of carb-dense foods e.g. grains, beans, pasta, potato to train your body to access this stored fuel and burn it off. At the same time you’ll be getting rid of all that excess fluid.
- Artificial sweeteners –don’t think that they’re safe just because they don’t contain calories or sugar. Sucralose, aspartame and even their more natural counterparts such as xylitol and sorbitol don’t get absorbed in the small intestine and end up in your colon, where they’re fermented by bacteria and cause fowl-smelling gas and bloating.
- Cruciferous vegetables –although beneficial for your liver, cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli) contain a type of carb called raffinose. Because we don’t make the enzyme needed to break down raffinose, it passes through the small intestine undigested into the large intestines where bacteria ferments on it, producing gas and resulting in bloating. To make these veggies easier on your stomach try roasting them.
- Some dairy foods – people who bloat on dairy products have a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme which digest lactose (milk sugar). As a result lactose travels intact throughout your digestive system, pulling water into your gut, causing gas, bloating and discomfort. Milk, cheese especially soft cheeses, yogurt, sour cream contain lactose. Cottage cheese and ricotta, as well as hard aged cheeses like parmesan and cheddar are low in lactose and are often well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
- High-salt foods high-salt foods triggers water retention which causes a puffy and swollen belly. Eliminate table salt and reduce high-sodium processed food such as salted/cured/smoked meat and fish, luncheon meats, bacon, sausages, canned or frozen entrees, broths and bouillon cubes, packaged foods, soy sauce, miso, instant noodles.
- Beans (or legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils etc.) Contain high levels of both indigestible oligosaccharides and fiber, both of which are known to cause bloating and flatulence. Keep nutritious beans in your diet with these bloat-reducing tips – sprout them, soak them and pour out the soaking water, cook them with gas-reducing spices such as fennel seeds, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, anise seeds and ground turmeric.
- Soft Drinks are a double whammy because they contain the top two bloat-inducers – sugar/artificial sweetener and fizz. The fizz creates air bubbles that gets trapped in the stomach and literally inflates your belly like a balloon. Any carbonated drink such as sparkling water or champagne has the same effect.
- Fructose and sorbitol-loaded fruits such as apples, pears, cherries, grapes, mangos, pineapples, dried apricots, raisins, prunes. Some people are fructose-intolerant, this is an inability to digest fructose which results in fructose travelling to the colon, where bacteria ferments the fructose causing the release of methane gases responsible for pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. Similarly sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol, is not completely digested so it also causes gas and bloating in the colon.
Eat More Of These Bloat-Busting Foods
Increase high water-content fruits and vegetables to get rid of water retention – These following foods are naturally diuretic and are healthy choices to add to your diet every day. High water-content veggies are cucumbers, celery, romaine lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, bell peppers, spinach and other leafy greens, all contain over 90% water. The highest water-content fruits are watermelon and strawberries which contain about 92% water. Other fruits high with water content are grapefruits, lemons, cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, cranberries and pineapples.
Increase high-potassium foods –Lack of potassium in the body causes water retention, edema and weight gain. Potassium is essential to the proper function of the body’s cells, tissues and organs. It is an electrolyte which maintains the balance between sodium and water levels in the body. It stimulates the kidneys to flush waste and excess salt from the body. Adding potassium rich foods in your diet help to get rid of the water retention. White beans, dark leafy greens, baked potato (with skin), yogurt, dried apricot, acorn squash, fish, avocado, mushrooms and banana.
Drink enough fluids to flush out the bloat –when you’re dehydrated your cells hold onto water, which can make you feel and look bloated. Making sure you drink enough water which helps your cells release the excess water and rid it through the urinary system. Drink 8 to 10 cups of water per day. This can be in the form of lemon water, herbal teas, bone broth and matcha green tea powder.
Increase Leafy Greens –spinach and kale are high in B vitamins which help cut down on bloating caused by water retention. Try dandelion greens, these bitter greens support kidney function and liver detox. They aid digestion and keep extra water weight at bay. Try them lightly steamed, sautéed or in a juice or smoothie.
Include kidney supportive spices and herbs – Parsley is rich in anti-oxidants, iron, calcium, and B-complex vitamins. It helps to inhibit the re-absorption of potassium and sodium, which allows excess water to leave the body. Dandelion Tea is a natural diuretic and it helps the kidneys flush toxins and excess salt and fluids from the body. Fennel Tea helps the body release excess water and sodium through the kidneys and aids in proper digestion and relieves gas. Nettle Tea supports proper kidney function, reduces allergic reactions and hypertension. Ginger is a natural diuretic and anti-inflammatory especially when combined with lemon.
Vitamin B6-rich foods – Vitamin B6 reduces water retention. food sources: sunflower seeds, pistachios, tuna, poultry, lean pork, lean beef, prunes, bananas, avocado, spinach.
Magnesium-rich foods – are anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling – food sources: dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, fish, legumes, whole grains, avocado, yogurt, dried fruit, bananas, cacao.
De-Bloating Fibre-Rich Salad
This salad contains ingredients to help beat the bloat! Cucumbers are 95% water and works to hydrate the body and reduce excess water weight. Tomatoes improve your body’s energy production by supplying a bounty of biotin and help maintain bone health by serving as a source of vitamin K. Parsley is high in chlorophyll, and is used as a blood purifier and a natural diuretic. Its ability to rid the body of excess water and toxins makes it a Fat Flushing star! Mint adds nice flavour and is high in antioxidants that can prevent allergies. Chickpeas are high in fibre which keeps the bowels moving while providing important b-vitamins to boost metabolism.
Makes 6 servings
3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb. cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 baby romaine lettuces, or 1 small head romaine lettuce, trimmed, cut crosswise into 3/4-in strips
2 cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup goat cheese (optional)
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. pomegranate juice (optional)
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Add 3/4 of dressing; toss to coat, adding more dressing by tablespoonfuls as needed.
Combine juices, garlic, vinegar, and dried mint in a small bowl. Whisk in only slowly until well blended.